A Day of Food on a High-Protein, Low-Carb Diet

A Menu That Goes Well With the South Beach Diet, Low-Carb, or Paleo Plans

salmon with kale in pan
Heather Winters/Photolibrary/Getty Images

If you've decided to try a high-protein, low-carb diet you will want to know what a typical meal plan is for the day. Many diets such as the South Beach diet, the Atkins diet, Protein Power, and the Paleo diet approach emphasize low-carb eating, choosing higher protein options, and keeping fat in your diet.

A healthy eating plan has you looking forward to meals, thinking creatively about what's next, and enjoying what you eat. Although you may be eating less, you won't be missing meals, and you'll enjoy flavorful food.

Low-Carb Diet Overview

The number of carbs you consume on a low-carbohdyrate diet can vary substantially. Current USDA guidelines suggest that we consume 45% to 65% of our daily calories from carbohydrates. So if you consume 1500 calories per day, you would eat 675 to 975 calories from carbs or 169 to 243 grams of carbohydrate each day to meet that guideline.

Carbohydrate consumption below suggested guidelines could be considered a low carbohydrate diet. These meal plans provide roughly 1100–1600 calories and 43–59 grams of carbohydrates per day.

You will want to plan your meals around meat, fish, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, lower-carb fruit. If you are not on the Paleo diet, you can include milk products, cheese, and non-gluten grains. Stick with water, coffee, and tea while skipping any sweetened beverage, beer, wine, or cocktails.

You can decide whether you only have a very light breakfast or you have a full breakfast meal. Some people do well with going longer between meals while others prefer keeping their blood sugar more steady by having a small meal or snack every few hours.

One of the best strategies is to listen to your body and eat when you're hungry. This is called intuitive eating and is an important concept in sticking to a healthy long term eating plan.

Once you learn what's acceptable and what's to be avoided on any eating plan, it becomes easier to start mapping out your own meals. You can look at other sample daily menus or use an online nutritional analysis calculator to count your carbs, protein, and calories.

A Sample Menu

The following daily menu includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack, and would work for almost any low-carb, high-protein plan. The nutritional information will vary based on which foods you choose and how the foods are prepared.

To provide a very general range, the menu is likely to provide about 1200-1600 calories, up to about 60.4 grams of fat, 43-59 grams of carbohydrate, 20 grams of fiber, and roughly 119 grams of protein. This nutritional information does not include any dessert.

Mealtime Foods


3 eggs, any style, with 1-2 servings of 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw vegetables. You can use the vegetables in a vegetable omelet or a frittata or serve the eggs scrambled, fried, or poached over the vegetables, such as with Mediterranean vegetables.


Two cups of mixed greens (or another lettuce choice) topped with 6 ounces of grilled chicken with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette. Or make a green salad with chicken and strawberries (add 2 ounces of extra chicken) topped with 1 tablespoon of strawberry vinaigrette dressing.


1/2 cup regular cottage cheese (you can substitute ricotta for one more gram of carbohydrates) or, for those on the Paleo diet, a handful of nuts or olives.

1 medium wedge of cantaloupe

2 tablespoons flax seed meal


6 ounces of salmon, grilled, broiled, or baked

2 cups of non-starchy, low-carb vegetables, such as spinach, asparagus, broccoli, or cauliflower

Optional dessert (not counted in the analysis)

South Beach Compatible Menu

This menu is compatible with the South Beach Diet. The nutritional information will vary substantially based on your food choices, the amount of food you consume (such as the Chicken Marsala), and your preparation method.

As a very general estimate, this day's menu may provide 1100–1300 calories, 50–65 grams of fat, 50-57 grams of carbohydrate, about 13–15 grams of fiber, 2500 milligrams of sodium, and 100–110 grams of protein depending on the foods you choose. Dessert calories and macronutrients are not included in these estimated numbers.

Mealtime Foods

Broccoli-cheese frittata (with 2 eggs and 1 white) or omelet with 1/2 cup cooked broccoli, 2 diced slices of Canadian bacon, and 1/3 cup low-fat cheese (omit the cheese for paleo diet)


Vegetable soup with a can of black soybeans added. A serving is 1 cup of the soup.

A roast beef wrap made with two slices of lean roast beef, 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, and 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, wrapped in a lettuce leaf.


15 whole almonds or pumpkin seeds


Chicken Marsala

1 cup cooked greens (spinach, chard, mustard, or kale)

Optional dessert (not counted in the analysis)

No-Cooking Menu

If you want a convenient menu that doesn't require cooking, this one uses some dine-out options as well as no-cook options. The number of calories and nutrients will vary greatly depending on the restaurant you visit and how you prepare your foods. As a very general estimate, you might consume about 1096 calories, 56 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams fiber, 75 grams of protein.

Mealtime Foods


Breakfast smoothie with 14 ounces milk or milk substitute, 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon lemon juice or lime juice.


Order two grilled chicken breast sandwiches without the bun or condiments at a fast food restaurant such as Wendy's. You might ask if you can just order the grilled (non-breaded) chicken breast for less than a whole sandwich. Also, order a side salad that has only greens and vegetables (no croutons).


3 large mushrooms or other vegetable dippers with 1 tablespoon of spreadable cream cheese or nut butter


Chicken club wrap with 4 ounces of sliced or roasted chicken, 1/2 cup red pepper, a tomato, half of an avocado, and 1 tablespoon mayonnaise. Use large lettuce leaves as the wrap.

Optional dessert

Making Adjustments

The calories in this daily plan can be varied most easily by adding and subtracting protein and fat. If you feel you're still getting hungry, you could use more fat to cook your eggs or salmon, add cheese to your morning omelet, use more dressing on your salad, or add butter to your vegetables.

If your particular carbohydrate needs are higher than this, then add more carbs. You can use the Atkins carbohydrate ladder as a guide, adding 5 or 10 grams of carbohydrate to the daily total, with preference given for the sources being low-carb vegetables, dairy foods that are high in fat and low in carbs, nuts and seeds, and berries or cherries. If you need fewer carbohydrates, omit the melon at snack time and the strawberries on the lunch salad.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Daily Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations. USDA.

  2. Eatright. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Should we eat like our cavemen ancestors?.

  3. Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA, Krieger JW. Effects of meal frequency on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis. Nutr Rev. 2015;73(2):69-82. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuu017

  4. Atkins. Reach your goal by climbing the carb ladder.

By Laura Dolson
Laura Dolson is a health and food writer who develops low-carb and gluten-free recipes for home cooks.